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Superyó by FrenetikVoid

There’s a calm to this piece, despite its surreality. A blue sky. A placid demeanor. The remnants of a reflected sunset in the small segment of space behind the large head at the image’s center. Soft colors that are allowed to be soft, without underlying menace. Warmth is allowed to be what it is naturally: warm and enticing, not some intro to an inferno. These are not assumed qualities in FrenetikVoid’s works, an oeuvre which is populated by all manner of dystopian environments and mutants and post-apocalyptic creatures: faces without mouths, mouths without heads, bodies without hands, skin without skeletons. And yet, here is Superyó, with it’s thoughtful imagery and it’s pleasant color-scheme and its fascinating meditations on perception, the self, and the mind.

The piece itself concerns a large skull, at least somewhat human, albeit devoid of individualizing features. Like skin. Or teeth. Or emotion. The chin is slightly sharper than normal, perhaps. But a human nose. And a human mouth, expressionless. A bald egghead. And a long neck stretching down out of frame. Within the head, placed inside a large rectangular opening where the Parietal and Occipital lobes should be, is a smaller being, also seemingly human, completely covered in black shadow but as assumed facsimile of the larger person it occupies. This small being floats gingerly above a rectangular seat, an off-screen sunset casting its shadow on the wall behind it, a black phantasm amidst a wash of gold and gilded orange. The larger skull’s skin is, upon close inspection, covered over with rigid lines which look like metal paneling. The implication, it isn’t a stretch to suggest, is that the small human within the larger one is the controlling force, and, together, the body and its brain look out at an unseen sunset. But who perceives it? Whose decision is it to perceive? 

There are no simple answers provided, and the closer we look into individual aspects of the image, the more they become bizarre and unfluid. The large human’s eye, for instance, is missing. Either it is completely black, or there’s an empty socket where it should be. The “blue sky” is really composed of wispy lines, like smoke or some gas. And even the sunset, which shines inarguably picturesque colors onto every surface, nevertheless colors surfaces which are strange and quasi-mechanical, misshapen and confusingly-assembled. This doesn’t ultimately disrupt the peacefulness of the image, but it does add a complex layer to it, a suggestion that placidity of perspective does not necessarily reflect a placidity of environment.

This is a piece outwardly concerned with perspective and with thought. “Meta cognition. When you think about thinking,” reads the Artist Description, and is obviously referring to the man-inside-the-man in the center of the image. Thought within thought; the layers of the self. Some Buddhist schools have a central teaching about the concept of “I.” Every meditation session hopefully brings practitioners closer to answering the question “What am I?” If I am not my body --they chant-- and I am not my emotions and I am not my mind, then what am I? 

The little man in the head would like to know.

A man inside a man...could there be another man inside that one? Onward and inward we’d go, discovering further and further meta-analyses of our own thinking. Superyó has no judgment to cast. It has no opinion to prove or larger issues to explore. This is an exploratory piece, and by bringing us closer to any understanding of our own cognition, it succeeds. And this piece succeeds! The image is raw and difficult to misinterpret. The body is a shell, the piece suggests, and the motor which powers our thoughts is hiding within our skulls; this explains the position of the small human, hands forward as if typing away on a keyboard. It’s hard, however, to work through some of the further implications. For instance, why does the small man have a shadow but the larger one does not? Is this some reference to vampiric imagery, the idea that vampires neither appear in mirrors nor cast shadows? One could certainly impose a body-negativity to this piece, since the Mind is the aspect of the image physically engulfed in sunlight, and the larger body is empty of any apparent feeling or expression.There is also a sense of endlessness within this piece, one which is emphasized by the lack of edges or outlines to anything in the piece’s background. Outside of the human form, nothing is defined, without any apparent form; no end and no beginning, just present existence. How far into this human’s psyche are we seeing? Is the larger human the actual, outward human shell, or is it also some other, larger shell’s manipulating shadow? How deep can we go into this image? How many layers are implied beyond the two we see? We are observing a world without physics or realism, where colors are both gaseous and solid, where skin is clunky and mechanical. Is the larger human the one who sits inside us, existing in the miasma of thought while we move about under thrall of gravity, continuity, and fact? The smaller human, the dark shade within the shell, what does it control? How far away from the “I” is it? Could it, in any reading, be less than the fullest version of itself? Is a marionette not as much its puppeteer as it is its wooden clogs and feathered-hat? Are we not what controls us?

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